GARDINER – Walk into a business on Park Street in Gardiner, and you’re in Park County, Montana. Step out onto the sidewalk, and you’re in Yellowstone National Park.
Gardiner’s historic downtown literally straddles the park boundary. The historic Roosevelt Arch, too, is split between national park service and county property.
That’s why a broad group of stakeholders from the region that include federal, state, local and nonprofit groups have agreed to work together on the planning, design and construction of new infrastructure along the “Gardiner Gateway” to Yellowstone National Park.
Work on improvements addressing visitor safety, visitor services and improved traffic circulation is expected to begin later this year. The updates are designed to enhance the visitor experience, while promoting Montana tourism and local economic development.
It all started because the north entrance station to the park wasn’t functioning efficiently enough, said park spokesman for the project Joe Regula. In the past few years as park visitor numbers skyrocketed, the station has caused traffic jams with vehicles backed up several miles—under the arch, down Park Street, past the bridge on Main Street and down to U.S. Highway 89.
On Thursday, June 14, a group of leaders involved with the project signed a Memorandum of Understanding in a ceremony at Arch Park, the original entrance to Yellowstone. The signatories included Gov. Brian Schweitzer, YNP superintendent Dan Wenk, Park County commissioner Marty Malone, Greater Gardiner Community Council president Bill Berg and Gardiner Chamber of Commerce president Daniel Bierschwale.
Together, the Greater Gardiner Community Council and the Gardiner Chamber of Commerce made plans to leverage the project to benefit of civic and business interests.
Basically, they were “making sure the work being done on the park service side actually carries over into the county side of Main Street and down the 89 corridor,” said Daniel Bierschwale, President of the Gardiner Chamber of Commerce.
Specifically, this means finding a location for public restrooms, and improve pedestrian safety, and fix issues with road drainage, potholes, fire hydrants and lighting.
The Chamber is also looking to use the project as a platform to tell the town’s story, Bierschwale said, mentioning a proposed historic walking tour that would tell the community’s ranching, railroad, mining and tourism history.
The estimated completion date of 2016 coincides with the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.
The goal is to make Gardiner the premiere entrance to the park, Bierschwale said. “It’s the original gateway to Yellowstone National Park.”
While the boundary is physical, Regula said, but the functionality of how the area operates is very universal and requires all the players to talk and work together and makes some improvements.”